Complaints – How to complain & How not to complain

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If you are seriously dissatisfied with the standard of care you have received you may of course complain.

Most GPs have a complaints box on view in reception and the contents are checked and dealt with every week or so. There is usually an undertaking that the complaint will be dealt with within 28 days.

If you do have a complaint about something which has gone wrong at your GPs practice either with the receptionist, the nurse, or the doctor, write to the Practice Manager. Keep it short and to the point. Relate what upset you and why. Suggest a remedy if there is one. Express your disappointment and reproach rather than your anger. You are more likely to get a constructive response.

If your complaint concerns a member of a hospital’s staff the approach will be different.

If you are complaining about a member of the junior medical staff, write first of all to the appropriate consultant…. the doctor in whose team the junior doctor works. If you do not get a response within a reasonable period of time, write to the Hospital Chief Executive enclosing a copy of your previous letter to the consultant. Do not make your letter too long. Two or three succinct points will suffice to open the matter. Keep the letter as short and clear as possible. You may ask a trusted GP to help you with this.

If it is the consultant himself, or herself, about whom you wish to complain you should write to the consultant directly with a copy to the chief executive.
There will then follow a recognized complaints procedure, and this can be quite lengthy.

(See NHS Choices website: Complaints procedure)

Alternatively, you can complain to the commissioner of the service about which you are complaining. At present this may be your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). However, change continues and in your area these may be joined up into STPs. (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership or Plan). The process is generally called local resolution and most cases are resolved at this stage.

If you do wish to complain do so soon after the event. Complaints should normally be made within 12 months, but the time limit can be extended if difficult circumstances intervene such as bereavement.

When you prepare your complaint be specific about what has upset you. Give the time and date when this occurred. Be fairly brief and to the point. One page of succinct information is much more powerful than pages of general criticism and lengthy descriptions.
Avoid personal attacks. Keep to the facts. A long diatribe of insults and invective will not be given the considered response that a serious complaint deserves.

Making a complaint can be daunting but help may be available in hospitals from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or from a local NHS Complaints advocacy service through your local authority. However, these bodies can be very defensive and may appear to do their best to dissuade you from complaining. If you do have a serious complaint do not be put off. However, do be reasonable and if explanations and apologies are forthcoming accept them with good grace. Try to ensure that lessons have been learned and that when appropriate there has been a change in procedures. You would really like to know that lessons have been learned which spare someone else the same problem.

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